IN AN ugly spat about the rare sightings of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Punjab, former Congressman Bir Devinder Singh castigated the Patiala MLA for his "colossal neglect" of the constituency, only to trigger a response from some party heavyweights who termed his "personal tirade" a sign of frustration in finding his way back into Congress.
While there has been little love lost between Amarinder Singh and Bir Devinder Singh, a former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha and someone known for his oratorial skills, today's exchange was particularly personal in nature, at times even bordering on the salacious.
Bir Devinder fired the first salvo, calling not only Amarinder’s "prolonged absence from Patiala a mockery of democratic values" but also referring to a particular woman friend and close associate of his. He alluded that Captain had more "commitment" towards this friendship but "a scant regard for his own people of Patiala."
Rattled by this direct attack, and clearly worried that it may find resonance among not just the opposition but also wider public, the Congress hit back, fielding heavyweights like Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Harpratap Ajnala and Kewal Singh Dhillon who issued a joint statement to take up cudgels on behalf of the Chief Minister.
The media has been agog about reports of Amarinder's rather rare public engagements in the last 90 days since March 11, 2017.
But in a rather peculiar defence of Amarinder Singh, the Congress leaders claimed that "Captain Amarinder’s relationship with his constituents was his personal matter and of no concern to Bir Devinder."
It was not clear whether Amarinder Singh concurred with the view that an elected leader's relationship with the electorate and citizenry is a personal matter.
Bir Devinder, who has a history of skirmishes with Amarinder Singh, largely over the latter's working style, was expelled from the Congress party before the last Assembly polls. Not having to contend with any kind of party discipline, he is currently playing the role of a freelance opposition, his utterances often carrying more credibility than the established opposition.
Interestingly, the sharpest opposition that the Congress government and Amarinder Singh have been facing has come from individuals, such as MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, than rival political parties.
The Punjab Congress leaders' statement called Bir Devinder "an unprincipled turncoat, who had lost all standing in Punjab’s political scenario and was not even remotely concerned with upholding democratic values or principles," but that did little to explain why the party went into an overdrive to counter the statement within hours in such shrill language.